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Site lets people search satellite images for lost Malaysian plane

A crowdsourcing platform called Tomnod is letting volunteers comb through satellite images and tag objects of interest.

DigitalGlobe has collected around 3,200 square kilometers of imagery that can be analyzed by Tomnod users. DigitalGlobe

Netizens are turning to a satellite imagery crowdsourcing platform called Tomnod to help find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the jetliner that mysteriously disappeared Saturday while in flight from Malaysia to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Tomnod, which relies on satellite imagery from parent company DigitalGlobe, allows people to volunteer their time to comb through images, tag objects of interest, and solve real-world problems.

Monday, Tomnod and DigitalGlobe formally kicked off a crowdsourcing campaign to help find the Boeing 777 aircraft, which disappeared from radar screens after entering the Gulf of Thailand. Authorities are still searching for the jetliner and trying to determine what went wrong.

People can assist in the search by joining the Tomnod volunteer team and tagging important locations and objects, such as potential airplane wreckage, in available satellite images, which are being updated regularly. Sunday, DigitalGlobe's satellites collected around 3,200 square kilometers of imagery from the Gulf of Thailand that can be analyzed by the Tomnod community.

DigitalGlobe purports to operate the world's most advanced constellation of commercial imaging satellites, and the company provides its imagery to Google. DigitalGlobe also maintains a subscription service called FirstLook that provides emergency professionals with Web-based access to timely imagery.

DigitalGlobe said Tuesday that Tomnod is fielding an "unprecedented level" of Web traffic after kicking off the campaign. The company also said that it has new image collections that it plans to make available as soon as possible.

DigitalGlobe acquired Tomnod in 2013. The site was used by thousands of volunteers to tag 60,000 objects in the first 24 hours after a typhoon hit the Philippines in November 2013.